News archive

May 2015

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Blacktoft Sands RSPB Reserve

Blacktoft Sands RSPB Reserve

The trip to Blacktoft Sands was billed as a 'do or die' trip with us all wanting to see the Montagu's Harrier that was breeding there. For those who had got up early and endured the trip across the Pennines the visit to Blacktoft Sands proved to be perhaps one of the best trips so far. On arriving we were given the news that the male Montagu's Harrier had flown past the hides just 30 minutes before. Since this was the bird we had come to see it was a case of setting ourselves up comfortably in a hide and waiting for its return. As we waited large numbers of Swift fed over the pools and at least 6 different Marsh Harriers hunted over the marsh. Every time we saw one, our heart skipped a beat until we were certain that it wasn't one of the 'Monties'. After a wait of about 2 hours the call went up - male Montagu's Harrier in the air - and, as one, everyone's head swivelled towards the direction of the bird. There it was - a male floating just above the reed bed in all it's splendour - with all the key identification features being clearly seen. Just as were were marvelling at this sight, the female took to the air and both birds chased off a Marsh Harrier that had got too close to the nest site. The difference is size and shape of the 'Monty' was immediately apparent. Happy that we had now seen the bird we were after we could now explore the rest of the reserve. There were certainly ducks galore with large numbers of Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Shoveller. In amongst these were the Little and Great Crested Grebe. The strong winds made watching small birds difficult but we did see Whitethroat, Reed and Sedge Warbler - and heard the explosive call of the Cetti's Warbler - as well as a lovely Yellow Wagtail briefly alighting in front of one of the hides. Good numbers of Tree Sparrow ( a bird now increasingly rare on Wirral) fed on the feeder just beyond the toilet block. But the day still belonged to the Montagu's Harrier. On another two occasions it came past the hides we were in giving increasingly better views - what a brilliant bird !